Date
6 December 2016
Corporate leverage in Singapore has risen to increasingly risky levels, according to credit analysts. Photo: Reuters
Corporate leverage in Singapore has risen to increasingly risky levels, according to credit analysts. Photo: Reuters

Singapore Inc faces US$12 bln debt hole

Singapore companies, exposed to slowing global trade and a lackluster commodity market, are facing a financing scramble in 2017, with more than US$12 billion of bonds falling due and banks wary of lending to the resources sector.

That could trigger more uncertainty in a market that has already seen some high-profile corporate defaults, such as oil services firm Swiber Holdings which hit the skids in July and went into judicial management this month.

It has also seen an increase in the number of bond issuers trying to renegotiate the terms of their credit to stay afloat, a disturbing signal in a market skewed to retail buyers and smaller issues subject to light scrutiny.

Corporate leverage has risen to increasingly risky levels, according to credit analysts and investors while banks are becoming more circumspect about extending financing as the quality of their loan books causes concern.

Between now and the end of 2017, according to Reuters data, US$12.4 billion of bonds falls due but corporate balance sheets in the city state are looking strained.

A Reuters study of 228 non-financial companies’ half-year earnings shows that 74 had net debt more than five times their core profit, a level that usually prompts concern among credit analysts and more than a third of that group were at least twice that level.

“We had not seen Singapore dollar corporate defaults since 2009 but suddenly we see a pick-up in defaults in 2015-2016. This is a warning sign about a refinancing confidence crisis across many sectors, not just commodity-related ones,” said Raymond Chia, head of credit research for Asia ex-Japan at Schroders Investment Management.

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